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D.G. ~Shameless Reader~

Book blogger, audiobook lover and shamelessly honest reviewer. Mostly read fantasy, mystery, romance, UF and YA but all genres welcome.

Amazing story

The Curse of Chalion  - Lois McMaster Bujold, Lloyd James

Wow! What an audiobook!

This is the story of a talented, courageous and honorable man who the vagaries of fate have made a failure at almost everything he attempted in his life. He’s now tired, both in body and soul, and at the beginning he gives the impression of having been defeated so many times that he doesn’t have the strength to carry on. But an unexpected opportunity with two giggling charges gives Cazaril the opportunity to continue fighting for both love and duty. The narrative is tinged with melancholy and the dusting of despair; it’s obvious that Cazaril has a decidedly pessimistic outlook in life but still, he finds the strength to go on.

The political and religious situation of Chalion are an important part of the story and are at the crux of the curse so the first part of the book goes into detail about both these things as well as Caz’ background. I really didn’t know where this story was going so I was pleasantly surprised where around midpoint, these things were expertly weaved together and formed a clear path for the story to follow.

But don’t fear that the book was boring – there’s a lot of wrangling and outmaneuvering at Court with hidden plots and danger lurking at every corner for both Cazaril and his charges. No sooner they got out of a problem they would be immediately immersed in another, more frightening or with terrible consequences.

Throughout the book, there were also important thoughts about the relationship between humans and their deities as well as free will and fate. Is our life mapped out by the gods or do we get to decide? I confess I’m not religious but it was interesting to see a believer visibly wrestling with these questions and feeling bitter and betrayed when it seemed that his life had been hijacked for a purpose not of his own choosing.

The narration was amazing. First, the voice of the “third person” (the omniscient narrator that conveys the story) is different from Cazaril’s, which I think was a stroke of genius. During the book, Cazaril thinks of himself as an ‘old man’ but his voice was incredibly masculine and sexy (yeah, yeah…I’m in lust with a voice again), which told you he definitely was NOT old. The narrator also did an incredible job with the voices and the range of emotion. I don’t want to give the impression that the book was gloomy; there were a lot of moments of laughter (that part where Caz was teaching his ladies to swim and he realized he was gaining his health back was hysterical) as well as sadness, and Mr. James did an incredible job conveying them all.

If there’s one thing that detracts from the story is that the titles are different from the usual ones (roya/royina = king/queen, etc.) so it took me while to figure out the hierarchy. But once I wasn’t distracted with those things, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I will definitely be listening to the second book in the trilogy sooner rather than later (even if the narrator is not Mr. James…sniff, sniff.) (